A few months back I sat down to watch a couple episodes of Amazon’s Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street and ended up binging the entire series by Monday night.
Why, you might ask, am I telling you about one of the best shows ever? No, this isn’t a review – I wrote one of those already – but an example. See, Gortimer and friends aren’t your typical boys-on-television stereotypes. Unlike most of the entertainment out there, they don’t solve all their problems with fistfights but with words; they talk things out.
They also feel things and, instead of denying them, embrace them. That’s something important that boys are told, from an early age, is a bad thing. Why? Well, that’d be the heteronormative attitude that pervades society. As I’m sure you’ve both experienced and witnessed, boys and feelings aren’t an encouraged combination.
Ever heard Love ya, bro – no homo? That’s an unfortunate reaction to the questions of sexuality that occur when the proud owner of a penis tells another proud owner of a penis how he feels. Girls can walk down the street hand-in-hand, skipping and singing show tunes and it’s cool; but pull a gender swap and suddenly they become poster children for gay P.D.A.
How in creation is that fair? Or sensical? Or healthy?
By not acknowledging and accepting emotions, boys are ignoring an important aspect of being human. I’m not a psychiatrist but my guess is that’s a big ol’ not-good thing. Not only are emotions kept deep inside, the exhibition of said emotions often leads to a soul crushing and homophobic response. What, are ya a fag? is the time-tested response because of the assumed femininity of that four letter word. And who knows girl-stuff better than boys who don’t like girls?
Do you see how much more ridiculous it all becomes once you start down that rabbit hole? It’s like pulling logic from Kellyanne Conway’s alternative-fact-loving brain. So why don’t we throw out all the toxic masculinity b.s. and drag those knuckle dragging feels deniers into the twenty-first century.
GROWING UP TOXIC
It doesn’t matter what genitalia you were born possessing; human beings are built to feel and express what they feel. It’s a natural, healthy part of being alive – and can help keep you that way. From the moment we’re born, we need affection; think of how important it is for a newborn to bond with his caregivers and you’ll see just how early it is that the need for emotional connections begins. Yet often parents instill a “manly” attitude in male children by surrounding them with representations of physical strength over emotional expression. Of course doting moms and dads will hold their baby boy and say they love him more than life – and mean it – but some still hold up football players and professional wrestlers as heroes and idols without the same encouragement shown for emotional strength.
That little boy ends up growing into an emotionally stunted adolescent who can’t even comfort his best friend without troublemaking or video games. Close connections he’d known might survive but new ones occur less and when they do happen, are that much harder to make. Why? Because he’s been told his whole life what a man is and a man isn’t touchy-feely and doesn’t hug other men. Because, eww.
Raised to not cry or touch or hug or show any kind of emotion besides those steeped in aggression, boys become men unable to deal with the emotions they experience and therefore keep them repressed. The number of men who kill themselves shows just how bad a thing that is.
So what’s the fix? That’s easy.
LOVE ISN’T A DIRTY WORD
You know those weird, icky thingies deep inside? You know, the sticky parts of living? Those are called feelings and those feelings are meant to be felt… and expressed.
If you tell your friend you love him, it doesn’t mean you’re gay (also, there’s nothing wrong with being not-heterosexual, just for the record) despite what those around you may say. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or effeminate or anything else people inaccurately claim is somehow negative and it doesn’t change your gender or sexuality; it can only make you a more complete and healthy person.
Love should be central to all our lives and shown to those we care about. We’re feeling creatures and to deny that aspect can lead to the dangerous depression we see so many boys and men fall victim to. Life can be challenging enough; don’t let a fear of breaking social taboos keep you from fully experiencing and enjoying it.
Be like Gortimer. And check out Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street. You won’t regret either decision. And remember, if you have a topic or question for me, hit me up. Until next time, remember to ignore those social norms that tell you how to be a boy and, instead, be yourself.